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In Obreros Alonso Gil refers us back to one of the foundational themes of cinema (Lumière’s workers) from a contemporary perspective, and in so doing he focusses on one of the main functions of film as a socio-anthropological document. In the video, recorded with a home video camera, we watch a group of foreign labourers refurbishing a flat. This is the portrait of a private space provisionally occupied by a number of workers. They recount different anecdotes to the camera, and so tell us of their experience by means of their own expressions, which are mostly funny ones, being as they are mediated by the gaze of the camera (and the man behind it).
Gil invites the spectator to look closely at every detail of the chaos inherent to the flat refurbishment. Obreros starts with a shot of the front of the building to then spend the rest of the length of the video inside. The different characters are first introduced in the lift, going up and down, picking stuff up and unloading it in the flat, where the camera then wanders erratically amongst an atmosphere of frenetic activity. Rather than being a passive observer, the camera follows and confronts every single worker passing by. Contrary to Lumière’s attempt in their piece not to be noticed by the workers, in Obreros these are being constantly and deliberately distracted both by the presence of the camera and by the questions being posed to them by the cameraman. The level of ease and confidence in those behind the camera is such, that the actors/workers feel a bit intimidated, and indeed do as they are told. In the background, over the conversations, we hear the sound of the radio, the noise of the work being done, and the workers’ singing. Meanwhile, as if by chance, we notice photographs of art works scattered around the flat.
The different type of workers that appear in this video are carpenters, plumbers, demolishers, and even the building’s doorman. The activity of each of these actors has specific responsibilities within the global labour operation. They seem to be performing synchronised acts of a home made musical spectacle (which is realised at the end of the video). The space where they spend their daytime is a place where movement is reduced and limited. And yet, far from hindering each other, they all complement each other perfectly. This is a process of synchronic organisation as an example of the autonomous and specific experience of each of the labourers. The narrator, who is present in the video (we hear him in the voice over although we only catch a few glances of his reflection), interferes in the worker’s routine, by pointing the camera at them and asking for their testimonies. The labourers offer their commentaries, which are to be understood within the specific private codes that frame their communication. The narrator in turn documents their interventions by participating and giving his opinion after each testimony
In this video Gil offers us a demonstration of the ways in which media intimidation operates. It lacks any sort of prefixed structure and is guided by the basic interaction model of the meeting of two people recorded frontally. The video camera continuously interferes with the work routine of the labourers, and yet these feel obliged to praise and flatter it (as they cannot escape it). A certain power staging is hereby subtly suggested. A research practice based on the creation of situations breaks the others’ habits, that of the workers, who are anthropologically analysed.